After some frustrating experiences, we decided to purchase a Zoom Pro account. This post documents the results of our first steps with setting up videoconferences.
1. First steps
1. First steps
1.1. Logging in
- Go to https://zoom.us/signin
- You are going to need the Zoom app. If it is not already installed, please install it. You do this by selecting the "host a meeting" option.
- Login information are here (protected).
If you do not have access to the link above but still want to use our Zoom Pro account, ask one of us. If we are not using it ourselves concurrently, and you promise not to abuse it, we will give you access.
Zoom is fairly intuitive and well documented. See the help center for tutorials and resources.
1.2. Scheduling and starting meetings
- My account → My meetings, or just https://zoom.us/meeting
- Click on "Schedule a meeting" and fill in the information.
- When you hit "Save", you will be presented with sharing alternatives. Zoom is integrated with Google Calendar, so you will generate a Google Cal event on your own calendar (for now @alberto's cal is linked, we need to test the linking to multiple calendars).
- Go to your Google Cal and invite guests, etc.
- From the "Schedule meetings" pages you can also download Firefox and Chrome extensions for Google Cal. They allow you, once logged into Zoom, to create Zoom meetings directly from Google Cal. When you create an event and click on "more options" you will see a "Make it a Zoom meeting" button. Clicking it generates the meeting and puts its URL in the calendar event.
- Now testing the solution of Zoom + Google Cal as standard Edgeryders practice for conf calls.
The quality of the experience with conf calls depend a lot on available bandwidth. Please, before hosting a meetingalways test your internet speed and choose the location that will give you more headway. You can use Google's Internet speed test.
In the Reef, the best way to host one is connect via Ethernet to the router in the office.
|Internet speed in the Reef |
|in download |
|in upload |
|office, connected via Ethernet cable ||64 Mbps ||26 Mbps |
|office, connected via the router's wifi ||42 Mbps ||26 Mbps |
|living room, connected via range extender's wifi ||10 Mbps |
|22 Mbps |
An attractive feature of Zoom is that, if you inadvertently share in a non-secure location your login data, or if your laptop/phone/tablet with access to Zoom is stolen or lost, you can "force sign out" all devices using your Zoom account. If this happens to you, do the following:
- Go to our profile page: https://zoom.us/profile
- Click on "Sign Me Out From All Devices"
- You are prompted to change your password
Symmetrically, changing your password will sign out the account from all devices.
A successful videoconference depends crucially on how much care you take of the audio part. This section contains tips and tricks, both technical and organizational, for organizing video conferences.
4.1. "Reading group meeting" type setup
In reading group meetings we have a hybrid situation: a physical gathering with 3-8 people, plus some more people joining from remote. We are trying the following:
- No video – saves bandwidth, and there is nothing to see anyway.
- We share our screen with an on-topic image like the meeting's e-flyer.
- Out audio: at The Reef, we use an AKG C 414 B-TL II professional condenser microphone. Any good quality condenser mic will do. It's important that it is a condenser, because it means that it can pick up with great clarity sound sources at 2-3 meters from the microphone. No need to pass it around, so no disruption to the conversation in the room. The polarity selector on the AKG is set to omnidirectional. The microphone is then placed on the table, or in the middle of the circle where people are going to be discussing. Omnidirectional capacity is also important. A boom is a good idea.
- Audio board: we use a Centrance MicPort Pro USB board to connect the mic to the computer. Industry standard for microphones like the AKG dictates they run on 48 V "phantom" power carried by XLR connectors; the MicPort provides that, so all you need is a normal XLR cable to connect your mic to it.
- Interaction with remote people is provided by chat and an audio return channel. The chat needs a local MC to "stand watch" to the Zoom application, and tell the room remote people want to speak.
- Audio in is provided by any computer speaker. The laptop's own speaker are not a bad idea: in our tests, they can be turned on at full volume at the same time as the microphone, without any feedback at all and without the remote speaker hearing her own voice echoing back.
- It is probably a good idea for the local MC to keep the audio in muted, unless when a person wants to speak. This is to prevent sounds from remote (for example people sitting in cafés) to disturb the local meeting.